There is a Seventh potentially neo-monastic pattern worth mentioning – albeit tentatively because it’s a pattern in its early days. It is a global move to creating environments of constant prayer – eg “Boiler Rooms” (to use Spurgeon’s name for it) and the 24/7 movement.
This gets my attention because there was a wave of new monastic communities post WWI and into the 1930s which flowed from a desperate hunger for prayer and intercession in an era of failing churches. This hunger was found most acutely among the Anglo-Catholic clergy of the day. And it led a number to form new houses for prayer – some of which evolved into new monastic communities. I wonder if we may be seeing the beginnings of something similar today.
The first six patterns that I have outlined in the previous posts flow from a hunger for…
• Closer community
• Deeper levels of discipleship
• Greater conversion of life
• Greater missional impact
• More meaningful ways of belonging to one another and journeying together
These movements may be a hunger for new ways. But they need not mean a movement away from congregational expressions. Indeed Australian Anglican missiologist Peter Corney talks about the potential for making our churches look more like this;
i.e. a pattern with a whole range of ways of belonging. And he writes about the potential for creating high commitment, close community structures, as an option within the structure of our congregations. And I believe there is real mileage in that – be that at the local level or on another level… district …regional? And I believe that some of these more disparate structures I have mentioned – associate structures and chapters – provide ways of journeying together that are relevant to places where there is a lower population density.
Let me invite you to eavesdrop on a question I left with senior Anglican colleagues when I presented the content of these posts in Canberra a couple of years ago. I offered it with respect because there are those in institutional positions very work is tied up with answering this question in practice from week to week. But it is an evolving question and relates to the relationship between inherited and organic, institutional and grassroots energies:
“If the energy for such expressions is grassroots, (ie if people are discovering these ways for themselves rather than because their institution has set something up for them) and we therefore find ourselves entering, post start-up into these kinds of stories; how might we as pastors, bishops, regional superintendents, home missions directors, build relationships that embrace, add value that is welcomed and serve the new things that God is doing among us today?”